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Open source with support

Open source and GitHub/GitLab are closely linked. Three years ago, GitHub created a monetization option for open source developers and companies with the sponsorship button.
Volker Buzek, j&s-soft
Simon Coen, j&s-soft
5 October 2023
This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

To start, here's a little open source anecdote from our company: In June, we celebrated our 20th anniversary. One of the speakers was Peter Hassenbach from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Why was he there? He brought our Enmeshed solution, which runs outside the SAP cosmos, into a major project for digitization in the education sector. And what did he say in the speech? "We chose Enmeshed because it is open source. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been an option." Public administration and municipalities want to move away from tech giants and hyperscalers. But how should this high development effort be organized and staffed? This is where the GitHub sponsor program could become interesting.

Beneficiaries and co-developers

The idea of free code is ingenious and without it we would not have such good software today. However, open source software users should not only see themselves as beneficiaries, but always as co-developers. Rather, they should be encouraged to participate in developing the software themselves, whether by documenting, fixing problems, or simply reporting bugs. Of course, not all software is immediately accessible to everyone in order to directly add value - and often there is simply not enough time to improve or extend it. What does the user have to do to seek help? He contacts the respective development team to get support. Until someone is found who has time for debugging or a complete adaptation, valuable weeks can pass.

And this is where GitHub's new Sponsorship feature comes in. New because it hasn't been used much yet. The GitHub Sponsors program, which was initially only available to individuals for sponsoring in its first year, has also been available to companies since 2020. It is still mainly individual developers who have activated the sponsoring function. There is the option of a one-time or monthly sponsorship. Often, sponsorships start with as little as three euros for a coffee. Some sponsors buy a lot of sponsor badges for their profile for these minimal amounts. More gimmick than monetization.

Sponsors-only repository

Since the GitHub Sponsors program, it is easy for software developers to set aside more predictable time for software development and maintenance. With the new Sponsors-only repositories area, custom developments for companies also get their space. This results in proprietary solutions that do not offer everyone the chance to build on the latest version. At first glance, this behavior undermines the original open source idea.

Here's the big but: The sponsorship program can make it easier to get good (paid) solutions. Fixed-price workshops and support packages can be offered on GitHub. That means: I can book the support I urgently need with one click. No quotation, no invoice through GitHub, only the date needs to be agreed. Especially in large corporations, this booking option speeds up the processes. There is no need to go through purchasing in many large companies. Price and contract negotiations are no longer necessary. An offer exists at a fixed price. It is booked. Done. 

From the point of view of the company offering support for the open source solution it has developed, the offer is equally positive. The employees who can provide support schedule the job. The time required is fixed. They are experts, they don't have to learn the ropes. When the appointment will take place is discussed directly with the participants.

Volker Buzek, j&s-soft

SAP Development, Architect, j&s-soft

Simon Coen, j&s-soft

SAP Senior, Developer, j&s-soft

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